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IBM Operating Systems

25 Years of IBM's OS/2 342

harrymcc writes "On April 2nd, 1987 — 25 years ago today — IBM announced OS/2. It was supposed to be the next-generation operating system that would replace DOS. It never did. But for a famous failure, it's doing okay — it still runs the computers that manage the New York Subway's Metrocard fare cards, for instance. Over at, I've taken a look at its occasional triumphs, frequent tribulations and enduring legacy."
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25 Years of IBM's OS/2

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  • by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:38AM (#39548097)
    In 1995, OS2 desktop was as popular as Macintosh. Now the field is pretty much 85% Windows with 10% Mac and under 2% Linux.
    • by Theophany ( 2519296 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:47AM (#39548187)
      I guess it's testament to the machine that is Microsoft - their sheer unrelenting power in the marketplace. It also creates that feeling of support for Big Blue as an underdog, something you wouldn't really associate with them. Still, TFA is just a romanticisation of fierce and underhanded business tactics. Either you win big or you're blasted into mass insignificance by the big boys when it comes to the consumer desktop OS market.

      In a way, it's almost like RIM and Nokia/Symbian's rather tremendous falls from grace, care of Apple and Google; i.e. they never stood a chance.
      • One.Word (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:26AM (#39548525) Homepage Journal


        Well, there's a longer story. Anybody interested should look into the blind luck and frustration that led to MS building Windows as "PM lite" and chancing into Dave Cutler's expulsion from DEC. The book "Big Blues" is a decent start.

        When IBM pivoted hard toward PS/2 and 16-bit computing, Gates took one of the 3 or 4 intuitive gambles that defined both his success and that of Microsoft.

        There's ONE simple use case, that illustrates the technical failing of OS/2, vs Windows NT - particularly in face of the claim IBM made for a "Better Windows than Windows". > > >. OS/2 didn't perform a special trap for that key sequence. Nor could it - without the 32-bit native, 'Virtual 8086" mode of the 386 processor. This simple illustration exposes the huge architectural gulf that OS/2 was unprepared to cross as 16-bit. Bill's certainty that 32-bit architecture was demanded by multi-task/multi-user computing in 1989 paid off. Inheriting the VMS brain-trust allowed him to execute, while leveraging the design and code contributions his team had made to the OS/2 project.

        Besides that? CONFIG.SYS. Really! A whole /etc directory reduced to the parsability of one file! In this context, the follies of the Windows registry appear to be, comparatively enlightened.

        • Slashdot ate my angle-brackets. The >>>> is CTL-ALT-DEL.

          • Re:One.Word (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @02:24PM (#39551537)

            I find it hard to believe the CTL-ALT-DEL would be enough reason for users to quit OS/2 and pick Windows instead.

            Of course both of these 80s and early-90s OSes sucked compared to the simplicity of the Mac System 6, or Atari ST-TOS, or the preemptive tasking of the multimedia-capable Amiga OS (since 1985) which was used to create graphics for seaQuest, Babylon 5, and Voyager (one season).

            People who wanted power, like for gaming, were not buying either OS/2 or Windows 2/3 on PCs. They were choosing the Atari STs or Commodore Amigas.

            • Not trapping CTL-ALT-DEL has nothing to do with the users not accepting the system and everything to do with the underlying technical platform that OS/2 was based on.

              That Windows could even trap that sequence was because of it's use of the virtual 8086 mode of the 386 processor, doing low-level stuff with dedicated hardware, rather than the approach that OS/2 took of doing it in software.

        • by Alioth ( 221270 )

          I thought David Cutler left DEC to join MS, I didn't think he was fired... where did you find this information?

          • It's been a while since I've read anything about this, but my sense is that Cutler was quite upset with Ken Olsen who cut the project he was working on at the time. While Cutler could have found work anywhere else in DEC he chose have a chat with Bill Gates. Many have noted over the years that if you take the acronym VMS (an operating system that Cutler contributed to) and shift each letter plus one, you get WNT (Windows NT).
        • Re:One.Word (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:48AM (#39548789) Journal

          I remember in at least one version of OS/2 that I used to run (2? Warp?), if you sorted the driver lines in your CONFIG.SYS alphabetically, your boot time would improve dramatically.

          I loved OS/2 back in the day.

        • Re:One.Word (Score:5, Informative)

          by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:36AM (#39549321) Journal

          Interesting, and wrong.

          OS/2 1.0 offered a single "DOS box". No claim was made to be a better "Windows than Windows".

          With OS/2 2.x, 32 bit mode was exploited, and Virtual 8086 mode as well for multiple DOS boxes. Windows 3 was modified to run in a "virtual friendly" fashion. Remember that IBM had a source license and was allowed to modify Windows 3.

          THIS version was a "better Windows than Windows" -- at least 16 bit Windows. Better performance, less crashing.

          However, the para-virtualized Windows relied on a certain addressing layout. Microsoft made sure to break that with Windows 95, removing the option of modifying and running under OS/2.

          Yes, a monolithic CONFIG.SYS was a bottleneck -- some ran into 100 or more lines. But, practically, not as big a concern. OS/2 was smaller, did not support multi-user, and few file systems. CONFIG.SYS was arguably the right choice. For OS/3... not so much, but then, that became Win NT.

        • Re:One.Word (Score:5, Interesting)

          by operagost ( 62405 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:41AM (#39549361) Homepage Journal
          I'm not sure why you're going on about Virtual 8086 mode, because that was supported from the release of OS/2 2.0 in 1992. How do you think it ran DOS and Windows 3.x programs so well? It certainly trapped CTRL-ALT-DEL... but all it did was flush the caches and reboot. That's because it was single-user, and had no need to trap the CTRL-ALT-DEL sequence to avoid being vulnerable to password harvesting programs. OS/2 2.0 beat Windows NT to the market, so acting as if it somehow lagged in this regard seems revisionist.
      • by Another, completely ( 812244 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:42AM (#39548717)

        fierce and underhanded business tactics

        My memory is that you could buy Windows for $60, or OS/2 for $500 or thereabouts. Always thought that might have had something to do with it.

        • by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:57AM (#39549523) Homepage Journal

          Yea, mine was I could write code for Windows (and DOS) without paying fees but the OS/2 API was $2,000 (or something silly like that; it's been a few years).


          • By the time OS/2 2.1 and 3.0 came around, the compiler package was only $200 or so. But either way, it was a major stumble along the way that there was no free compiler for OS/2. Nothing to let you get your feet wet while trying it out.

            Plus there was the horrid lack of applications. Open source was still in its infancy, and since the O/S didn't ship with a compiler, it wasn't exactly easy to compile something to run on it.

            I think there was eventually a GCC for OS/2, but by that point Win 2000 was out
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Solandri ( 704621 )
          The enterprise version (which came with a database, networking, and other stuff) was ~$500. The consumer version was priced the same as Windows.

          I'm pretty skeptical of conspiracy theories so didn't really believe at first that the press was being bought by Microsoft to favor Windows. But what convinced me was an issue of Infoweek I think. One article was headlined that IBM was delaying OS/2 2.0's release by a few months. Buried in the article text it mentioned that several new features were going to
      • Indeed, I do not accept the notion that OS/2 failed. Hell, it has binary compatibility with Windows APIs and it is still in use! IBM failed at this endevour and couldn't even see the advantage that they had regardless of the short-term situation. Now the two products are so divergent it is nearly impossible to leverage the binary compatibility.

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @03:53PM (#39552497) Journal

        Not to mention anybody that was there and actually used it (I hung onto OS/2 all the way up until Win2K, after a horrible month attempting to run WinME and being horrified what a step backwards it was) knows that a LOT of what was wrong with OS/2 was NOT the OS, but the company behind it...IBM. In a way the mess with HP and WebOS reminded me of OS/2 because in both cases neither knew how to market the product and thought by sticking their brand in front of it that would magically sell it.

        Even though I REALLY liked the OS (its multitasking was years ahead of everybody else at the time) when I saw the ads i was like "Oh shit, its toast" because their entire selling point was "A better Windows than Windows"...WTF? Are you kidding me? Windows CAME ON THE MACHINES and cost NOTHING and you want $200 for your OS and the big selling point is it runs Windows programs? Are you stupid? why should a user or developer support you when your big selling point is you're just an ersatz Windows? And not a great one at that because it only had 16 bit support and Windows was already touting Win32.

        It was sad, that's what it was. they had this great thing, something that could have changed the game, and they pissed it all away because they didn't know how to sell it. But we see this all the time, You get these powerful companies that just "pull a Dilbert' and get a case of the stupids. Hell look at MSFT, they FINALLY have an OS to replace XP with, businesses are starting to adopt, so what are they gonna do? Burn their user base chasing fucking cell phones. Fucking retarded, just completely fucking retarded.

        I would say, and i'm sure i'll get hate from the fans for saying so, but OS/2 had a better shot than Amiga at the title if they would have just pushed for "developers developers developers" along with plenty of in house programs that showed off the power. When Windows was still stuck with DOS underpinnings and would bitchslap you if you tried to run more than one program at a time OS/2 could multitask like crazy. I'd have a web page open WHILE having a chat session AND listening to music and not a single skip or glitch, it was truly amazing. And unlike Amiga it could run on the bog standard hardware. But first IBM tried to tie it to the hardware they were selling (which was overpriced and behind the curve to boot) and then when that didn't work they tried to sell it for more than the market would bear, just retarded.

        BTW if anyone wants to fire up a VM and try it eComstation, which is just a rebranded OS/2, has a trial version i think. try it and remember that when it came out Windows was on 3.x and be blown away at how solid it was.

    • I actually considered abandoning Windows myself for it, after a friend showed me what OS/2 Warp could do (its multitasking blew away Windows 3.1, and unlike Mac's, it could run DOS games/software). It may have succeeded if it Warp had come out just a couple of years earlier. As it was, it only beat Win 95 to market by a year or so, and so most people just held out for another year and stuck with Windows.

      • os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 32s v 1.25, Now with it where able to run windows 32 bit apps then it may of killed windows 95.

        But MS played it's tricks and os 2 was not pre loaded on that many systems.

        • You can also argue that their excellent support for Windows applications contributed to their downfall.

          Where I worked, we made the decision to support only Windows because OS/2 could run it just as well (actually better). There was no point in supporting OS/2 natively for us.

        • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:37AM (#39548673)

          Microsoft used to update win32s every week it seemed then IBM would fix OS/2 to run them. Finally with Win32s v1.30 Microsoft hardcoded some DLLs to load in high memory and as OS/2 only supported 512 MBs per process, no more Win32s support without a lot of work.

        • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:50AM (#39549427)
          IBM engineers had the full Win32 running on OS/2 but once Microsoft found out they modified Windows 95/aka Chicago to break that capability. OS/2 processes could only access 1GB of address space while Chicago processes got 4GB of address space. So to break the OS/2 ability to run 32bit Windows Microsoft modified their resource compilier to load the applications resources(menus, icons, etc ) up at the top of the address space instead of down low with the rest of the application. Viola, OS/2 was unable to load the full Win32 application.

          There were stories of IBM even solving that problem but deciding that if Microsoft was willing to convolute their OS design to prevent OS/2 from running it once, they'd just keep doing it and so IBM ended the cat/mouse game at Win32S capabilities along with OS/2's already advanced design.

          • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:16PM (#39550607)

            With Warp server. OS/2 did start to support high memory, first 2 GBs then 3+GBs and with FixPak #13 for V4 they combined the desktop and server kernels and updated V4 to V4.5 which gave high memory support on the desktop.
            While they never finished porting the API to be high memory friendly they did a good enough job that things like Firefox, that ran like shit with a 512 MB address space, more like 350 MBs after loading shared DLLs, run quite well. And OS/2 has Odin, sorta Wine for OS/2, which allows some Win32 programs to run and is now being used to compile some Windows programs against. This is how Java 6 and Flash 11 work under OS/2 now. (actually we use the native Flash binary with a wrapper)

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:30AM (#39548581) Journal

        IBM was pushing OS/2 Warp to compete with Windows NT. I was in college at the time and did a co-op with IBM that year. I had to opportunity to go to COMDEX and IBM gave lots of people a t-shirt that said "Nice Try" (with the N and the T really emphasized) on the front and "OS/2 Warp, Up and Running, Not Up and Coming" on the back. We were to wear the shirt in the audience of Bill Gates keynote when he officially announced Windows NT.

        I still have that T-Shirt.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:54AM (#39548843)

          I was in college at the time and did a co-op with IBM that year.

          My group used to call you CO-OP guys "NOP"'s - no operation - as in assembly 'NOP'.

          You were easy to pick out - shirt and tie for the first week on your NOP job.

          Yeah, yeah, yeah, we gave you punks a hard time, but it was out of love, man. You were sharp and ambitious and would end up as our boss. We had to take our shots while we could.

          I still have that T-Shirt.

          Me too.

          I was in my local NAPA auto parts store and this old guy (even older than me) saw that shirt and said, "That's a really old T-Shirt."

          Long story short, he was one of those guys that took an early retirement.

          When I was at Boca, I watched all those "out of date loser" mainframers come down from NY to do shit jobs. I smugly thought, "That's what you get for not staying current!"

          How arrogant I am. And I'm ashamed for it.

          I escaped to a so-so business back office programming job while others were poached by Microsoft - the smart ones which wasn't me (Peter, peter rice eater - you rock man! I hope you're a MS Millionaire because you deserve it!).

          The ironic thing is that the Hartford Insurers (who still train, btw) need some mainframers.

          I met the most obscenely talented and genius people at IBM.

          Looking back, it was the most humbling experience ever - and I was too arrogant to take that lesson in at that time. Then again, we have to be arrogant to get jobs in this fucked up industry, don't we? Saying, "I don't know." is the kiss of death.

          • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

            The one thing I learned while I was there was that it wasn't the place for least not working in the area I was cop-op'ing in. I was in the Ultimedia Tools Series segment (a group trying to define some interop standards between the burgeoning multimedia field). In my evening hours, I even helped beta test Storyboard Live 2.0 (going above and beyond). It was fun being out in the Bay area being a young college student, but not where I wanted to be long term.

      • by Flammon ( 4726 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:34AM (#39548641) Homepage Journal

        Well, I tried Warp and the problem for me was RAM. You see, at the time, a 386sx40 with 4MB of RAM and a 170MB HD was an average machine but it wasn't enough to run Warp decently. Warp just didn't run at Warp speeds on that hardware. If Warp would have appeared a few years earlier, the problem would have been worse.

        • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:15AM (#39549051)

          Same reason why it took Linux so long to gain some speed. Let's be honest here, it's a great system. But run it on the 486DX available in 1990 or the early Pentiums and you're in for a very, very slow and sorry ride. Compare to DOS, which is MUCH more lightweight, it had no chance.

          Sure, Linux was even back then a full blown multitasking, multiuser system, nothing DOS could have held a candle to in any sense (actually, Linux farting would have blown out that candle without even aiming in the right direction), but the problem was simple: Nobody cared. Multiuser, multitasking system on a box that can barely run ONE task without overextending its CPU power? What for?

          OS/2 suffered the same problem, it was a great system, it had great features but the hardware it was supposed to run on was not up to it. And the features went unused, both by software and the user, which in turn makes the DOS/Windows combo the "better" system in the eyes of the user. Simply because it was faster. Yes, from a technology point of view it was inferior to OS/2 (hell, even NT4.0 was), no doubt about that. But the superiority of OS/2 didn't "arrive" at the user.

      • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:05AM (#39548947)

        I actually considered abandoning Windows myself for it, after a friend showed me what OS/2 Warp could do (its multitasking blew away Windows 3.1, and unlike Mac's, it could run DOS games/software). It may have succeeded if it Warp had come out just a couple of years earlier. As it was, it only beat Win 95 to market by a year or so, and so most people just held out for another year and stuck with Windows.

        I don't think it was the timing of Warp's release - after all, even OS/2 2.1 was superior to Windows 3.1. Problem was that OS/2 had double the memory requirements, which was a major showstopper at the time. Although it supported all DOS device drivers, there was always the problem of which systems wouldn't run it.

        Also, for PC makers, IBM was a competitor, while Microsoft was not. That too was a part of the decision. Also, IBM took way too long and ultimately aborted Workplace OS, which was to have succeeded OS/2. That turned out to be the death knell for the OS.

        After Microsoft merged Windows 9x and NT in Windows 2000, the rationale for OS/2 was pretty much gone. Which, alongside the demise of Amiga, NEXTSTEP, NT-RISC, was some of the tragic reasons for which all we have today is Windows and Unix (I'm considering Linux, BSD, Solaris and all their derivatives as Unix).

        • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:38PM (#39550923) Homepage Journal
          That was more or less my experience with it. I went to college in 1995 and the recommended machine was an IBM P75 with 16MB of RAM. Plenty for DOS and Win3.1, but it also came preloaded with OS/2 3.0 Warp. That was pretty cool I thought, so I booted up OS/2 to check it out. It took forever to boot, and once booted the UI was just dog slow. Clicking on a menu required a full second or more for it to draw on the screen. It was just unusable. It also didn't have a good web browser, which even in 1995, was a death knell for any OS (my friends BeBox had the same problem).

          Looking back now, I might have been able to tweak it and get it usable if I had been willing to invest the time in it, but I instead focused my energy on FreeBSD (2.1!) and that turned out to be the better choice anyway.

          The one thing I did like about that machine: PC-DOS was better than MS-DOS. Not a lot better, but its memory management was just slightly superior so that the constant headaches my friends had with trying to get stuff to run on their MS-DOS machines (damn, 1MB short of base memory!) was not a problem on mine. I never had to make boot floppies to get Doom to run because PC-DOS was slightly better about getting stuff up into High Memory).
        • by lennier ( 44736 )

          Also, for PC makers, IBM was a competitor, while Microsoft was not.

          Yes, this. Anyone here remember Micro Channel? That, more than anything else, was what killed OS/2's "hacker cred".

          I was in high school at the time, but I'd been hacking on home IBM PCs for a few years and was in the BBS scene. I remember the long and nasty legal wars IBM fought to restrict "cloning" of the otherwise open PC, and how prices of PC-compatibles only finally fell to affordable levels for home users once IBM got undersold by the young beige-box upstarts like Dell. I remember IBM being this huge

      • Sorry, but no. OS/2 was heaps more expensive than DOS, which also came bundled with a computer. Then, there was very, very little software for OS/2 itself. I distinctly remember using OS/2 in the company I was working for at that time, and all it did was run Windows programs.

        What made OS/2 fail was a lack of marketing and a lack of software.

    • by chrb ( 1083577 )

      10% Mac

      Citation? All of the recent sources say 5%. []

      • It all depends on how and what you are counting. I believe the 10% number is usually described as the number of Apple computers and it includes iPads.

    • by kikito ( 971480 )

      In 1995, mobile phones were expensive and clunky bricks used only by a minority.

      Now ... well, the figure above is pretty much meaningless if it doesn't include them.

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      You're throwing those numbers around like they actually matter.

      How many people do you know today who have a tablet or smartphone but no computer, or use their computers as an auxiliary device? I know quite a few. Not a majority yet, but then, I work in IT.

      The personal computer was always viewed in its early days by many as "electronics as social change". We've had that transformation. The next wave of transformation will be in distributed mobile computing.

      I would not be surprised if, by 2015, people don't b

  • by xwwt ( 2475904 ) Works for Slashdot on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:46AM (#39548167) Homepage Journal
    I spent may hours working in the ICLUI interface building apps for OS/2. For the most part it was good at memory management, tools were mature and the interface was object oriented. I was always frustrated about the MS & IBM split on the interface and I think MS took the wrong route in getting to Windows. Had the alliance stuck around who knows what would have happened to this OS.
  • by Trip6 ( 1184883 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:48AM (#39548191)

    ...on aggressive partnering and OEM tactics. That was his real contribution to MS, nothing technical.

  • Don't Push Us! (Score:2, Informative)

    by na1led ( 1030470 )
    Don't release software if the majority of hardware is not ready for it. Microsoft has made these mistakes several times, recently with Microsoft Vista. Software companies try to push innovations too fast, before anyone is ready for it.
    • Microsoft has made these mistakes several times, recently with Microsoft Vista.

      Vista works fine on those machines with which it was sold now that it's been service packed. It's not a case of the hardware not being ready for Vista, but a case of Vista not being ready for the hardware. Or even ready.

      • by na1led ( 1030470 )
        Have you tried running Vista with only 512mb ram? Even with all the Service Packs, it's not useful with that much memory.
  • OH the memories (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:55AM (#39548267)
    For a brief period in the nineties I was an OS/2 evangelist/snob/fanboi...It's too bad IBM wasn't a little more savvy with marketing and branding. Scratch that, it's too bad OS/2 belonged to IBM. I was in the local DMV a few years ago and noticed they were still using it...and its circa 1989 graphics. One feature I loved and haven't seen duplicated on any other OS is the ability to create a work folder. Not sure the actual term for it any more but if you put a shortcut to an application/spreadsheet/document in that folder and set the folder as active whenever you opened that folder every one of those items would come up front and center. The closest thing I know of is the startup folder in Windows but that is only when you log in.
    • I've created batch files to do something like this - running the batch file would open everything in a given folder. Not quite as good as implementing it right into the OS, but it worked for what I needed. It was handy for repetitive tasks I had to do daily or weekly (recording backups from a myriad of sources into a single spreadsheet was a big one).

      • by Kozz ( 7764 )

        I actually do this exact thing. When I get to work in the morning, dock and boot my laptop, I run a batch file containing this:

        start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Lync" communicator.exe
        start /d "C:\Users\kozz\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\" chrome.exe
        start /d "C:\Eclipse\" eclipse.exe
        start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Skype\Phone\" Skype.exe
        start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\" Outlook.exe

        sc start OracleOraDb10g_home1TNSListener
        sc start OracleServiceDEV

    • i was one of the Team OS/2 members, and founder of the cincinnati team os/2 user group. I was also an OS/2 Ambassador (the equivalent of a Microsoft MVP), one of a small group. i don't remember how may of us there were (Ambassadors) but it was a small number. I recall fondly attending Comdex and running around installing OS/2 at vendor booths and putting up signs. I found an old photo i took recently of the "Microsoft BOB" launch in vegas. one attendee in the audience. still laughing at that one.......
    • OSFree (Score:5, Interesting)

      by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:56AM (#39548863)

      Unfortunately, I never owned a PC during the time that OS/2 was around, and so never got to experience what it was. But most of the people who ever used it liked it. Just hearing about some of the concepts - dragging a file to a printer icon in order to print - blew me away. An OS that would have been the offspring of OS/2 and NEXTSTEP would have been just purrrfekt!

      In college, I learnt about microprocessor design on a PPC 601 - the first PPC to come out after IBM did a derivative design of it along w/ Motorola (now Freescale). Knowing that OS/2 was going to have an uphill battle outside IBM (heck, even Amber didn't offer the OS), I was rooting for OS/2-PPC, which was known as Workplace OS. Unfortunately, as it turned out, Mach 3 turned out to be a horrible choice for a kernel (and Hurd pretty much made the same mistake in going w/ it) and finally, IBM canned it. That was the real death knell of OS/2, and w/ it died any real hopes of the PPC getting popular outside Apple (as far as computers go - I'm not thinking about consoles or other boxes)

      Incidentally, today, there is a project called OSFree [], which is similar in concept to Workplace OS, except that it uses the more recent L4 micro-kernel as its underpinning. The concept here is good - on top of the micro-kernel, they plan to use different 'personalities', such as Presentation Manager, Win32, DOS and even Linux (there already exists an L4Linux, so they may not do much more on that one), as well as a Neutral personality, which would provide the services that the other personalities require. The advantage here is that the portability of the L4 has already been demonstrated, since after an initial design w/ some assembly code, it was found that replacing assembly code w/ C didn't have any performance impact.

      I know that at this point in the game, computers based on anything other than x64 or ARM are pretty much non-starters, but it would be fantastic if such a project actually came to fruition. That would be a good step towards portable computing, while giving just about any architecture the ability to have an environment like OS/2. Hopefully, all the major FOSS software will be ported there, and that platform would then have a chance of being viable. I think that b/w OSFree and ReactOS, there should be enough opportunity for OSs that decide to take advantage of the end of support for XP. Maybe a laptop based on a MIPS or PPC can have a go at it

  • by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:55AM (#39548269) Homepage

    I ran OS/2 extensively from '93 to '03. OS/2 was way ahead of it's time in many ways - maybe too much so. It was a great solid system and the GUI was much better than most of what we have today. it's a shame that IBM couldn't market it properly but they were working against the massive marketing force that MS had back then. That, and the fact that OS really ran best with at least 16mb or RAM back in a time when 8mb was considered excessive. Once Win95 came out OS/2 was pretty much on a fast path to it's death. That clearly demonstrated that the PC industry was more about marketing and deals than producing a better product because windows 95 was absolute trash in comparison.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That, and the fact that OS really ran best with at least 16mb or RAM back in a time when 8mb was considered excessive.

      Funny that you can say that with a straight face. Until just very recently 90+% of Slashdotters considered the idea that MSWindows needing even a single k more RAM than a full featured Linux system as a sign of bloat and incompetence on the part of MS. Now people can just shrug it off in a time when doubling your system RAM was no small bill to foot? Wow. Just wow.

      I can only

    • by GiMP ( 10923 )

      I remember IBM really pushing the sales of OS/2 Warp. However, I couldn't ever *find* the software for sale. Also, this was during a period when some machines were sold with only DOS, but an increasing number of systems were moving to having Windows pre-installed. Very quickly, Microsoft closed the gap through pre-installations, creating a giant barrier to competition. Once that window of opportunity was closed, OS/2 and other operating systems had no chance. Apple only succeeded in having their own hardwar

    • Once Win95 came out OS/2 was pretty much on a fast path to it's death.

      Windows didn't kill OS/2. Sure, Microsoft's per-processor licensing agreements had ensured that OEMs shipping computers with OS/2 wouldn't compete from a price perspective (as you were effectively paying for copies of DOS and/or Windows you weren't receiving), and their weekly Win32s updates ensured that OS/2 couldn't run Win32 software better than Windows -- but all those succeeded at doing was to keep OS/2 more on the margins, ala MacOS and Linux at the time.

      No, what really killed OS/2 was IBM's push in

  • When I was in college (about 3 years ago), they were discussing upgrading one of the wood shop's machine control PCs from OS/2 to Windows 95. I never found out if they went ahead with it, or where they planned to get a non-buggy version of Windows 95.

  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Monday April 02, 2012 @09:58AM (#39548305)

    "More than 250 companies declared their intention to deliver OS/2 apps, including biggies such as Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland and Novell."

    OK, that made me smile.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "More than 250 companies declared their intention to deliver OS/2 apps, including biggies such as Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland and Novell."

      OK, that made me smile.


      When I was at IBM Boca (when it existed), we had all those apps running and they were available for sale at your local computer store.

      I remember the Borland OS/2 compiler rather fondly, although, at IBM we were stuck with Visual Age - a pig - during the Warp days. Before that we had Microsoft's C/C++ compiler and that was pretty good.

      Novell, I guess that made you smile. Although, the networking on OS/2 (TCP/IP, Netbeui) was quite combersome and a bitch to get around - that was written by IBM along with

  • Using RoboBoard graphical BBS software. O/S2 Warp allowed two serial modems to operate about cave paintings and stone tools.
  • Only a few years ago I saw a CIBC ATM crash and it was OS/2 but recently they went with much larger screens and when that crashed it was Windows.
    The question I have is in maintaining OS/2 applications what programming tool do you use? So regardless of the potential quality of such an old system I would think the costs in staying in that game would be prohibitive. Where do you get a 386 these days?
    • Older processors and hardware (such as the 386 and 486 era stuff) are still produced, usually for things such as factory robots that value reliability over everything else and don't require much in the way of processing power. Not sure where you might buy them at the consumer level.

      • Indeed, the power requirements are miniscule compared to modern processors and they run cool. In addition the supporting hardware requirements are lower. Hell, the old Motorola 32bit processors are still being churned out as well.

    • Re:CIBC (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:17AM (#39548463)
      OS/2 is still being updated/supported just not as OS/2. eComStation [] Is currently available [] and works with most current generation hardware.
    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      As the sibling mentions, OS/2 still installs and runs on some modern hardware, only 32 bit though.
      Most programming is done with GCC with ver 4.4.6 being the newest. OpenWatcom being the other supported compiler and the choice for device drivers and such.
      I'm typing this on Mozilla/5.0 (OS/2; Warp 4.5; rv:10.0.4esrpre) Gecko/20120331 Firefox/10.0.4esrpre SeaMonkey/2.7 built with GCC 4.4.1 on a core2duo.

  • Micro Channel. I really liked it. Easy to install and setup. I remember those days fondly.
    • Yeah, Micro Channel [] was IBM's ploy to kill the clone market by introducing proprietary hardware into an open architecture and licensing to the competition. The industry responded with VESA Local Bus [] which wasn't as good but it was open and OEMs could target a much larger install base than Micro Channel.
    • Micro Channel. I really liked it. Easy to install and setup. I remember those days fondly.

      From a hardware standpoint -- I mean the literal nuts and bolts -- I really liked the fact with Microchannel machines (PS/2s), you could open the case and swap cards and components without tools, just thumbscrews and finger-friendly fasteners for most part.

    • You forgot the sarcasm tags. Nobody misses config floppies. Might as well wax lyrical over EISA.

  • Had excellent scripting, good multitasking, was very stable at the time compared to just about anything that you could run on PC hardware. I also remember it as being very fast, unless you ran Windows applications on it.

    IBM was just not flexible enough to win. The exact same thing is happening to Microsoft right now with the only difference being that while IBMs desktop efforts died with very solid products at hand, Microsoft falls on their nose with crapware. Dont get me started on the duct taped Windows P

  • Some community banks still run OS/2 to power their Voice Banking systems. The reason being is that the hardware dies before the software does.
    The other amazing thing is how OS/2 will run on PC's just made a few years ago. As long as it has a PS/2 port, IDE port, and a PCI slot for your ancient 3com NIC.

  • I remember getting OS/2 Warp as a freebie when I bought my first PC. It was from a short lived high street retailer called Escom, who could sell machines cheaper if they had OS/2 rather than Windows. Since I was going to slap Linux (RedHat 3.0.3) or NetBSD on the machine I didn't care about the lack of Windows - for those that expected to get Windows it mustc have come as a surprise! I tinkered a bit with OS/2, but the interface felt clunky and cluttered. The Windows 3.51 machines that were gradually suppl
  • was when I heard him give a talk on OS/2 and how it was the future of Microsoft. This was at the University of Washington, and obviously sometime between late 1987 and 1988. A very narrow slice of history indeed.

  • by Drumpig ( 13514 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:18AM (#39548465)
    I was using OS/2 when I signed up for this /. ID!
  • If I remember correctly (I can't find my notes), OS2 was a port of IBM's mainframe 32-bit OS scaled for the microcontroller. If you connected using a 3270 terminal or emulator you could get some pretty fast apps going. Of course, people wanted to work from the desktop, not a terminal. The killer was the graphical interface, which never worked right. Furthermore, new apps for the desktop were hard to write, and required developers to be fully immersed in the IBM programming paradigm and mindset. On the other

    • No, it was not. OS/2 has nothing to do about OS/400 (I guess you are refering to that one). OS/2 is an independent development, in which _probably_ you can find traces of ideas and implementations in other operating systems, but you can say the same about any OS. Take into account OS/2 1.X was being developed by Microsoft, and it was when MS switched their goals to enhance the Windows Family when IBM toke the lead.

    • But it did communicate very well with IBM's mainframes. That's one of the reasons it was so popular with banks. If you had IBM big iron, OS/2 did very well talking to it. OS/2 1.3 looked a lot like Windows 3.x, and they both shared the same NT heritage. IBM couldn't release the source because a lot of it belonged to Microsoft. They probably could have done the 2.x GUI shell but Gnome is actually a pretty similar design. OS/2 used something very much like CORBA for desktop objects.

      I got on the OS/2 bandwag

  • by FirstOne ( 193462 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:22AM (#39549147) Homepage

    I remember it well, I was tasked with a number of OS/2 projects. Recoding MS's writelog function, making it asynchronous (non-blocking), creating the (AT) VGA driver, creating (AT) ST506 driver, and the biggest challenge ever, I was tasked with creating the final quality control steps/code/testing methodology.

    I knew the final QC phase would be huge, an almost impossible challenge, since the Microsoft's core staff was mostly Recent College Grads who would take many of inappropriate shortcuts. Thus it would take something extraordinary to beat their code into something useful.

    If I had failed, I suspect the micro computer industry would have been stuck in a dark age for at least a decade, maybe more.

    The biggest hurtle was there would be no way to fully test all combinations of system functions, our SUN would burn out first(billions of years). Instead of attempting the impossible, I did the next best thing.

    I created a series of revolutionary stress tests for that project. The component programs were a series if self checking programs which used out of phase pseudo random number generators. The resulting (re-creatable) data patterns were used for both the function parameters and content, and the longer they executed, the greater the testing coverage.

    Long story short.. The first release of OS/2 (86) never saw the light of day.. It couldn't even pass the individual component stress tests, let alone dozens of them in combination, all controlled by my screen manager. Sloppy coding techniques and shortcuts had forced MS coders to go back to drawing board and start over from scratch.

    Net result, those stress tests uncovered many flaws, including hardware problems, and major software issues, some of which were carry overs from PC/MS/DOS. They were discovered and fixed, some of them were folded back into next release PC/MS/DOS, 4.0. Thus making DOS based PC's useful for large databases for the very first time.

    In the end, the code, the methodology I created, was so far ahead of everything else they quickly took over all other forms of OS testing at both IBM and MS. And it lives on to this day, Microsoft has ten's of thousands people creating/running modern permutations of those 24hr stress tests I pioneered for the birth of OS2, using it to find and fix bugs in all versions of windows.

  • Usability killed it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:49AM (#39549417)
    I developed in OS/2 and got accustomed to most of its strangeness, but there is no denying it was strange. Having to use the right mouse for drag and drop was pointless complexity. The property tabs of most objects on the WPS were filled with WAY too many options, arranged in a haphazard way with common stuff buried behind advanced stuff. OS/2 used IBM's CUA UI guideliness which were so perversely unintuitive that compliant apps were less usable than those that weren't. And despite being CUA compliant there was zero consistency between one application and the next. None at all. There was a never ending cycle of CSDs to fix the desktop. Apps could freeze the GUI solid just by never returning from a message handler. Even IBM's own Bonus Pak could drag the desktop to its knees. And prospective developers were frightened away by expensive developer programs and hideously slow tools like VisualAge C++.

    Despite all that if you knew what you were doing it was far more superior to anything Microsoft had at the time. I'm sure Microsoft engaged in all kinds of sharp practice but it really needn't have bothered. IBM was its own worst enemy. By the time NT4.0 / W2K were appearing there was no reason at all to use OS/2.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:59PM (#39551217)
    that's what happened when OS/2 was preloaded by just a few PC vendors in Germany. But in the US where Microsoft had licensing contracts with all the vendors and that license required payment to Microsoft with or without Microsoft's OS, IBM could not crack even a few percentage points of market share.

    I remember those days well. Like how Object Oriented Programming was very popular and resulted in application frameworks making cross platform software easy and fun. But with every innovation in software development came a Microsoft counter example of doing it differently and such that it only ran on Windows. OOP on Windows was called object-like. The common 3D graphics system was OpenGL but Microsoft came up with Direct3D on it's DirectX. IBM created DIVE(Direct Video Interface) and hired a small software company called ID Software to port the Doom engine to OS/2 using DIVE to show off OS/2's capabilities. That's about the time Microsoft employees were running around Comdex crashing OS/2 machines with floppy disks designed to do that.

    I will send out a big "thank you Linux and the FSF" for GNU/Linux and the ability to stay away from Microsoft's software and the repeating head aches it's brought so many. I see so many on the various social media sites disappearing and then reappearing weeks later saying their Windows computers broke.


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